I have been thinking recently if there is any good way to get decent customer/litigant/user input into the functioning of the courts. The fact is that most court systems do very little in this regard. There is certainly no “Consumer Union” for courts
Part of the problem is that most court users see their having to deal with the court as a single event, unlikely to be repeated. Another part of the problem comes from court fears that litigants will attempt to engage in ex parte communications if they are part of any formalized input process. It is worth noting that those with representation get regular opportunities for general input through “bench-bar” gatherings, and is assumed that such input will not be case-specific.
Many hospitals have various forms of patient councils, and indeed, I am just joining the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center Patient and Caregiver Advisory Council. (“Our Vision: To integrate the patient and their caregiver’s perspective into all aspects of cancer treatment from diagnosis thru survivorship. Our goal is to instill hope and humanity in the evolving world of cancer care.“) I very much look forward to learning about how this kind of input can work.
Let me suggest that there is one category of case that seems often to be in and out of the court system for a long time, on and off, and that is cases dealing with children. The problem here may be that those most willing to spend time engaged with the system at a general level will have the strongest feelings, and may indeed not always be open to the views of their opponents.
It may be therefore, that would be appropriate to have have three such Councils, one of prime custodial parents, one of non-custodial parents, and one of children, probably teens. It would also probably be safest to make sure that the court staff who ran and attended the meetings would be those who were not engaged in case decision-making, or even dealt with the public.
We might learn enough from these experiments to move to other areas of input and to use other mechanisms, such as social media. The bottom line is that you want a system that encourages reflective, focus-group type input,without the heavy costs of such a formal process.
Please share thoughts and ideas on this in the comments.